It’s All Relative, When It’s A Relative
Relatives can be the worst offenders of ageism. After months of not returning my emails or phone calls, my sister called to ask me to make a Halloween costume for her kid. I patiently explained (once more) that I have a heavy schedule this semester, Rachel’s busy schedule (which still includes me), and I get Ethan off to school in the morning, leaving precious little time for anything else. This launched a barrage of laughter on her part. Why would I go to college at my age? Did I not get a decent pension? What did I need education for, it is not like I will ever have to get a job again? Why can’t I just enjoy retirement like a normal person? She informed me that everyone (in the family) was laughing at me, you know, ‘crazy Sharan’ who thinks she is a college student at 57 years old. Then she proceeded to tell me how she was busier than me–because she has a job–and that she needed the costume for a party next week.
I go to college, at my age, because I did not have the opportunity to attend until now. I was too overloaded with taking care of my children, working, paying the mortgage, and negotiating the unexpected road of life. The dreams did not die with age. I may not look like a traditional college student, but make no mistake, I am a college student. I go to class, do homework, agonize over test scores, and study all the time. My age has not stopped me from getting top grades, or keeping up with technology. I go to college simply because I can.
A decent pension provides the means to pay the bills. It does not give me anything to think about, nothing to learn or see in a different light. I spent the first year of retirement sitting in front of the television, trying to convince myself that this was the life. I felt isolated. My life became mind-numbingly boring. And I had a stroke. And my ‘decent pension’ did nothing to help me recover. However, the thought of going to college, even at my age, gave me the will to get better. I am grateful for the pension, it helps with college expenses.
I need an education because I have something to accomplish before my time is up. I am not sure exactly what it is I need to do, but I am counting on college, and the process of higher education to enable me to figure it out. I suppose, like most college students, I do not know what I want to be when I grow up. I take my education seriously. I had a professor who felt like my sister, that I was just wasting time, playing around by going to college. When I asked for help on an assignment, he ignored me. I heard through a very unreliable grapevine that he felt he should not have to waste his time on some “old bag” who wants to be young again. I may well be an “old bag” in his opinion, but I certainly would not want to be young again. It was hard enough to be young when I was young, why on Earth would I want to do it again? It strikes me as odd that this particular professor felt that his time was wasted on me. When college is focused on the job market, how effective is the education? Any professor that feels the way he does about students over 55 years of age, should probably be teaching grade school, where there is an age limit for students. But I noticed that my grades began falling in his class, and he adopted a dismissive attitude when I asked questions. After paying the class fees, over $100 for the books, and completing all the assignments early, I withdrew from the class. I cannot waste my time on a professor who does not take my education as seriously as I do.
I enjoy retirement in my own way, because apparently I am not normal. I have no desire to sit in front of the television, relive my past youth, or have another stroke. I will continue with my college education and make sure I learn as much as I can, because I have not read all the books in the library (like Rachel thinks), I do not know how to spell more words than spellcheck (like Ethan thinks), and I have so much more to accomplish. I am 57 years old, but I have not outlived my usefulness. My sisters can laugh at me all they want. I have discovered ways to use social media to help students save time and get better grades that really work! An article I wrote will soon be published in the top academic publication in this country. I am considering a more scientific study on my approach to practical uses of technology in college.
There is much I hope to do, and college is the first step. My sister will have to figure out the costume for her kid on her own, I have an essay due and a test approaching.